Theresa’s Year in Review – 2021
Happy New Year! I hope your year is off to a great start. As we kicked off the year, it seemed I heard of less people making resolutions for 2022. Perhaps that has been the trend. If you are someone that does make new year resolutions, I hope you are hanging in there with the new habit you want to begin or end. This year, I made a few. I always set several and hope one or more stick. So far, so good. As you know, any day is a good day to start something that will better you, your family, and/or your health.
As 2021 ended, did you happen to notice people saying “I am glad ’21 is over” or “I do not want to repeat 2021 ever.” Or you heard even worse! I heard a variation of those so often, I started to wonder if people were confusing it with 2020. I wondered if the pandemic made the last 2 years just run together. Yes, COVID was still with us. Maybe we thought it wouldn’t be, as we turned the page to January 1, 2021? Or at least we thought the vaccine, protocols and requirements would have changed the landscape significantly? I agree it was no fun picking masks back up in the fall, and certainly the last few months have been tough with illness, but I really do not think characterizing the whole year as bad is the way to go either.
So here are my 21 great things that happened in 2021 at the Allen County Board of DD. Maybe you can find 21 of your very own as you kick off this new year.
1. The Reverse Parade in March. We loved seeing so many of our friends visit our campus during Developmental Disabilities Awareness month. There were hundreds of people in
their cars and our staff had so much fun with the parade and themes.
2. We went back to in-person visits for Early Intervention.
3. We formed a new collaboration with the Allen County ESC that makes us both stronger, but more importantly, gives even more students a great learning space.
4. We added another Community Connections Specialist. We now have 80 hours weekly of FANs and many other community activities offered.
5. We completed a fantastically big clean out at Marimor School in the summer.
6. In August, we welcomed even more kids to our campus, with the ESC providing education to nearly 40 students and the Board providing the school facilities and ancillary services.
7. We added another Behavior Support Specialist, as part of a new grant with the Mental Health & Recovery Services Board. This grant focuses on public school students, regardless of
8. Early Intervention had the highest number of referrals they had seen in quite some time. Some of this may have been rebounding from 2020, when referrals were lower, but I also believe
the great work they do is being noticed, and parents want the support more than ever. We could look at this negatively and say “High numbers are not good, because more babies and
toddlers have delays and need supports.” But that wouldn’t be true at all. The reality is “Thank goodness families are receiving help earlier for their children, so their child will not
need long-term supports.” Isn’t that what we all want from Early Intervention?
9. The most successful endeavor might have been building the All Ability Playground at Marimor Legacy Park, during a
pandemic with supply issues everywhere. From donors to community members who helped build it, more than 400 people or businesses can stake some claim in the wonderful playground at 2550 Ada
Road, connected to the beautiful Ottawa Metro Park. Today is January 4, and I saw kids and adults on the playground this morning. It was only 28 degrees. I am not sure the playground has
gone one day without someone playing on it. It is the very definition of community, because it is for everyone.
10. We added a few new staff who are doing an absolutely fantastic job. We returned to some old ways of doing things, but also restructured to give SSA (case management) staff more support.
We have seen newer SSAs gain knowledge and experience under the ‘Lead SSA’ support structure. SSAs and support staff have moved dozens of people, wrote more plans and revisions
than we can count and performed some of the kindest acts of service for people we serve.
11. We received another three-year Accreditation Certificate.
12. A new position was added for Housing and Records management. It has been very successful on many fronts.
13. We continued the provider assistance program, and we looked for new ways to support provider staff who carry the lion’s share of services, 24/7, 365 days a year.
14. We were a major partner in establishing the first ever Guardianship Services Board in Allen County.
15. In October, we held another wildly successful Chicken BBQ and sold 3,000 dinners while being COVID safe.
16. We held a Grand Opening for the new park and playground, where both Senate President Huffman and Speaker of the House Cupp attended.
17. We created a “What Makes Us Happy” video that is worth a watch every week.
18. While we saw the loss of a long-term Board member who reached his term limit, we swore in a brand new Board member who was ready to go on January 1.
19. A new Employee of the Month recognition was started for individuals we serve.
20. We switched over to a new health, dental and life insurance program with very little consternation. We continued to operate a fiscally strong agency.
21. And for the most part, we weathered the second year of the COVID-19 pandemic as well as any agency could.
We did have trials, including the loss of 8 individuals we serve. That is never easy for an agency that prides itself on services from birth until the end of life. We really know and care for those that pass on. They are part of our long-time family. We know some of you lost loved ones, not only to COVID, but for many other reasons. We have grieved with you and continue to in 2022.
With so many good things happening in 2021, you can see why I wondered what people were so eager to leave behind. I actually hope 2022 is as successful as 2021 was for the Board of DD. Yes, I understand COVID is the main issue, and we all want it to go away. However, can I offer up an idea? COVID is not going to go away. It is here to stay, in some form. If we keep wishing away years because of COVID, we will miss our lives. For hundreds and hundreds of years, people have learned to live with a host of diseases. If you want a comparison, check out the new series “1883” on Paramount. The narrator describes burning down his house due to smallpox and how they literally shot people with smallpox if they came into town where it would spread. At least those two things are not our reality with COVID-19. Past generations experienced much of what we are now when they faced pandemics – except they did not have FaceTime, rapid home tests or even curb-side pick up! We need to learn to live with COVID as part of the story, but not the reason we throw a whole year away as ‘bad.’ Let’s go into 2022 with an improved attitude about what is asked of us on account of Delta, Omicron or whatever name this disease has next. Let’s remember that we play a role in protecting ourselves, our family and our community. It does not have to drive our year or our fear. Let’s not miss life, while we complain about every protocol, flowchart or rapid test we have to take. Let’s lean into 2022 with resiliency, so when we hit 2023, we are not just glad 2022 is gone. Let us know what you are excited about for 2022. We would love to hear! At the Board of DD, we are very excited about the year ahead and new ideas we have to bring the best services to you and your family. WE’RE HERE! It is our slogan for 2022. Be looking for it.
By: Theresa Schnipke, Superintendent